Lakeland, Florida -- There's a major consumer alert coming out of Polk County, where the City of Lakeland has announced plans to replace thousands of electric meters due to a potential fire hazard.
"My meter was totally gone, there was nothing left of it," says resident Cherie Oberg. The electric meter on her Lakeland condo burst into flames one year ago this week. "The neighbors were screaming our house is on fire!"
Back then, Oberg was told that the meter wasn't the problem, but the announcement from Lakeland Electric officials has all but convinced her it was
It turns out there have been six meter meltdowns since 2012.
Two of those were traced to loose connections, two were due to lightning strikes, and two of them are still somewhat of a mystery, say city officials.
There have been no injuries.
"This is more of a precautionary measure," said Kevin Cook, a spokesman for the City of Lakeland, which operates the utility.
The city has decided to play it safe, and replace 10,500 of the Remote Disconnector-type of its Smart Meters citywide.That's about 8% of all its meters.
"There's some melting of the sensors inside, the circuit boards melt and so we're replacing them," said Cook.
The Lakeland electric utility is replacing meters due to fire risk.
The manufacturer of Lakeland's Remote Disconnector meters, which are worth about $180 apiece, has already agreed to pay for their replacement, said Cook.
"It's too bad it took them this long, but luckily no one was hurt in the meantime," said Oberg.
So, how do you know if yours is one of the meters that needs replacing?
It's pretty simple. If you look above the manufacturer's name, "Sensus" and it's blank, then the meter is fine. If, above the word Sensus there are initials "RD", which stands for "Remote Disconnector," that meter will be replaced.
Also, all of the meters in question have a serial number on the front which begins with the number five.
Lakeland says it's getting to work right away, replacing about 500 meters per week. Their goal is to finish the replacement job by end of the year.
If you still have questions, concerns, or would like more information about which meters will be replaced and when, call Lakeland Electric at (863) 834-9535. Or, to visit the website, click here.